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Its back

Tilton's Gymnastics now has permanent home
by: Vern Uyetake, Lori Tilton helps student Claire Petersen during a gymnastics class at the Lake Oswego Armory. Thanks to cooperative efforts, Tilton’s Gymnastics will become a contractor with the city and remain at the armory.

A local gymnastics academy will open its doors again this month thanks to some teamwork between local parents, city officials and the program's operator.

Tilton's Gymnastics, operated by Lori Tilton, opened with two students just more than a year ago. By the fall, the program had a roster of 56 students and was selected as a Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation program.

But the academy's relocation from rental space downtown to the armory - the 82nd Rear Operations Center, an Oregon National Guard unit based in Lake Oswego - on South Shore Boulevard prompted the city to close it. Zoning in that area did not allow commercial businesses, a rule that protects neighborhoods from noise and traffic.

Disappointed parents lobbied the city and now, through a renewed partnership between the city and the academy, Tilton's will again begin classes Jan. 9, this time as a city contractor in the armory. The partnership enables local children to continue in the program but sets aside issues that might have caused trouble in the neighborhood.

'The parents and the city decided they wanted this program and the city worked with them and listened and together we made it happen,' Tilton said.

She will begin a new slate of classes in two weeks, with one-hour classes on Tuesday and Wednesday between 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Returning students are being directed to Tuesday classes, while beginners are encouraged to start with Wednesdays.

Tilton said the partnership with the city's parks and recreation department eliminates her commercial activities in the noncommercial zone, allowing registration and monies to flow through the city instead, with the city taking a portion of proceeds for the effort.

The partnership also allows continued operation of Tilton's at the armory which has a large open room where students spread out and the program can store a set of large mats. Tilton struggled to find a similar site in Lake Oswego where she could use a large space and still keep class sizes small.

City officials also like the new arrangement.

'We've had a longer term relationship with Lori, she's been running gymnastics programs through Parks and Rec for a while now so it was an easy transition to move all of her programs under Parks and Rec,' said Kim Gilmer, director of the Parks Department for Lake Oswego.

City officials were cautious about a fix for Tilton's problems, since a hasty change in zoning regulations could have had unintended consequences for neighbors of 'public function' sites like the armory.

Gilmer said bringing the program under the umbrella of the Parks and Recreation Department made the armory a workable space, since Tilton is now a city contractor and the city runs other programs in the space.

'It worked out for all of us,' she said. 'It's a popular program so we're happy to work with her on this.'

The match is also a fix for local parents.

Kris Kildahl, whose eight-year-old daughter Madison Goodrich attends Tilton's, said she was thrilled the program is up and running again.

'(Madison) has been anxiously waiting for her to start back up,' Kildahl said. 'I'm just glad they were able to come up with a solution. It just seems like it worked out well for everybody.'

Paul Donohoe, whose five-year-old son Emerson also attends Tilton's, said he was also glad the program plans new classes.

'We were very impressed with her and very impressed with the program,' said Donohoe. 'She was a very loving teacher. Emerson really liked her.'

Like other parents, Donohoe said Tilton's warm relationships with students and her one-on-one teaching style made learning gymnastics a good experience for his son.

Tilton and her teachers - all local high school cheerleaders -focus primarily on tumbling and encourage students to work at their own pace. They don't use equipment, instead helping students to develop muscle. They also discourage competition and foster friendly relations among students.

Holly Gossett, whose six-year-old daughter Ellie is also in the program, said she was glad to see the affordable option move forward. Previously, Gossett said, private academies proved too costly an alternative.

While city hall probed solutions, parents waited for word on whether Tilton's would move on or become a permanent option for Lake Oswego parents. Tilton's ended its last set of classes at the armory in the fall.

All along, Tilton has said city officials shared her goal to help local kids stay active and was hopeful the red tape would catch up.

Now, she said she's excited to get back to the business of teaching local kids to tumble.

'If 10 years down the road I look back and this is the only bump I've had, I'll be very lucky,' she said.

To register for gymnastic classes with Tilton's Gymnastics, go to www.lakeoswegoparks.org. Check with Lori Tilton for specific class placement before registering by calling 503-534-5088.